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Home / Business / Five years ago Saturday, a turning point for Hong Kong and China

Five years ago Saturday, a turning point for Hong Kong and China



HONG KONG – Several places in the world mark a single date seismic events that were considered a turning point in recent history, such as the September 11 attacks in the United States or the November 9 fall of the Berlin Wall of Europe. For post-colonial Hong Kong, the turning point fell on August 31, 2014.

It was then that a top Chinese government body announced a plan for limited democracy in Hong Kong. Beijing's decision fell significantly below what Democrats demanded that summer, triggering a two-month occupation of several Hong Kong neighborhoods known as the Umbrella Movement.

This year, protesters seized that day – known simply as "8/31" – for what they hoped would be a huge march this Saturday, though an organized meeting now seems unlikely.

Hong Kong authorities have refused to give the protesters permission, and increased the possibility of a repeat clash should the demonstration be held. Authorities rejected an appeal on Friday, and march organizers canceled the demonstration after failing to gain approval, although people are likely to protest in other ways.

A few centrists in Hong Kong and Western political scientists have suggested that the adoption of the August 31 decision five years ago may have helped the democratic cause and may still be a good alternative for the territory. They claim that even if two or three Beijing allies appeared on a ballot to vote for all the people of Hong Kong, these candidates would become less pro-Beijing during the campaign. They can compete with each other to promise more democracy, to get the most votes from the public.

"If they want to win a popular election, they would have to adopt politics closer to the political center," said David Zweig, longtime political scientist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The decision of August 31, Beijing finally expresses who will become CEO. After the parliamentary elections, Beijing would decide whether to appoint the winner of the parliamentary elections to become CEO. If a candidate became too critical of Beijing during an election campaign, or promised too much, that candidate might not be appointed, said Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, an elite, semi-official advisory body created by Beijing.

"Beijing will not allow any person who appears to place responsibility on the Hong Kong people over his responsibility to Beijing," Lau said.